Restorer Stefanie Bründler in the workshop. Work: Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Falsche Götzen, 1983, Kunsthaus Zürich, Vereinigung Zürcher Kunstfreunde, 1984

The work in question here was purchased in 1984 by the Zürcher Kunstfreunde shortly after it was first shown in Paris. Of the remaining works in the series, some are now in private or public collections, some are held by the artist, while others no longer exist.

The ‘False Idols’ have only been exhibited once at the Kunsthaus. The fragile sculpture exhibited some damage primarily attributable to transport and handling. As part of the installation project that took place in the Kunsthaus Collection until May 2019, it was analysed and treated to conserve it – partly with public access – and then has been put on display.

« Working on the original is a multi-layered and fascinating task. » — Stefanie Bründler, Restorer
« When you see traces of the production process and change phenomena it’s like going back in time. » — Stefanie Bründler, Restorer

Carved in stone?

What at first glance looks like stone is actually polyurethane, a material that is mainly used as insulation in the construction industry but not often to produce a sculpture. The foam is highly sensitive to light (making it prone to ageing) and also to pressure, which means there is a risk of damage every time the work is handled.

What needs to be done and how?

In addition to cleaning, consolidating, puttying and retouching areas of loss, an essential element of the project was to optimize handling and the existing packaging to protect the work against further damage.

In the workshop

Applying the putty compound using a micro dispenser
Precise application using fine needle attachments
Dry cleaning with gentle compressed air and a vacuum cleaner
Dry cleaning using a goat-hair brush and vacuum cleaner
Appraising the work under the microscope

For optimum cleaning, dirt was extracted from the deep structure by means of dry cleaning using a goat-hair brush, gentle compressed air and a museum vacuum cleaner to eliminate the grey bloom and improve the colour effect.

An extended series of tests were carried out on dummies, experimenting with a range of binding agents and fillers in various ratios and using various methods of application. A mixture of cellulose fillers and methyl cellulose as a binding agent proved ideal for stabilizing and closing cracks and areas of loss.

The putty compound was precisely applied using a micro dispenser and fine needle attachments, and the surrounding area was structured accordingly. For deeper loss areas and larger cracks, inlays made of foamed methyl cellulose were first cut to size and inserted before being filled and then retouched.

Restorers: Stefanie Bründler / Kerstin Mürer / Sandra Weber
Project period: October 2018–May 2019

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